The Century’s Wars

I’m not good at birthdates
but have always remembered my stepfather’s,
for his was the day
the Great War ended.
We have a photo of him in France,
on a hill overlooking the Rhine,
a tall, clean shaven, young marine
in breeches, boots and campaign hat
hands on hips, legs spread,
seeming to tower like a monument
over the river’s far bank.

There’s another photo of him,
on Saipan,
carbine in hand,
soiled battle fatigues,
helmet with chin strap hanging open,
looking smaller than I’d ever seen him look.
That was the day
his friend’s son died there,
a friend he’d carried
from a battlefield in France.